November 20th, 2008
03:29 PM ET

Pirates take on the Navy

Pirates are hitting the headlines, but how are they grabbing ships? CNN's David McKenzie explains.
Pirates are hitting the headlines, but how are they grabbing ships? CNN's David McKenzie explains.

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

The whole world is talking about pirates, since they grabbed an Iranian ship and then a gigantic Saudi supertanker. Pirates operating off the coast of East Africa, have attacked more than 90 ships this year alone.

The U.S. has sent in ships to join a NATO-led international fleet, which has battled, fended off and sunk some pirate ships. But the pirates are still attacking, and still hold 17 ships and more than 300 prisoners.

It sounds like something you’d see in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or Captain Hook, but the weapons are bigger and it's much more dramatic because it's real life.

And the human toll is painful, as Thumani Said can attest. I interviewed Thumani in the port city of Mombasa, Kenya.

He was captured by pirates on the cargo ship that he helped sail to Mogadishu, Somalia from Kenya. The company he works for has had three ships hijacked by the pirates.

One of the hijacking incidents occurred even when they were trying to transport humanitarian aide to suffering Somalis in that lawless, poverty-stricken country that has been without a central government since 1991, and where clashes among various groups vying for power often occur.

Thumani and his fellow crew members were held by the pirates for over 100 days! He sat under the barrel of an AK47 thinking about his new wife and family. At first, he was afraid to die, and then he just became resigned to his fate. The pirates didn't treat them too badly physically, and they had food stocks stored on the boat. But they were constantly badgered by the pirates who wanted to know why the ransom wasn't being paid.

Eventually his company paid a ransom and the ship returned home. Thumani was paid a measly ‘bonus’ of $80 dollars for his troubles. While he was held hostage, he was not paid his salary.

So, as we hear and read about pirates on the high seas, complete with tales of warships and ransoms, spare a thought for people like Thumani. The 300 hostages out there right now don’t know if they will ever return home.

Filed under: David McKenzie
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Scott Nelson

    Since the US military is doing nothing to protect ships from pirates why don't we just join them, protect them and then take a cut to help us with our financial struggle?

    November 20, 2008 at 4:20 pm |
  2. Cindy

    I can't believe that Thumani only got $80 and didn't even get paid for the time he was held hostage. That is ridiculous! It looks like the company would have atleast given him his pay after all he went through. But I guess they think since they paid the ransom then that was enough.

    Unfortunately the more ransoms that are paid the more these piracies will occur. It's great that the U.S. and NATO led fleets are stepping in to help fight the pirates but really it isn't the U.S.'s problem. These companies and countries who are shipping the foods and oils need to step up and take care of their own ships.


    November 20, 2008 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Annette Hall

    I think someone should give ships an escort of some kind to ensure
    safety and they should be able to have guns on board. What is the matter with everyone!? The company's shipping the oil, should be
    responsable for this and much more! Thank you.

    November 20, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  4. mattb

    I say go after them. Use our Navy Seals!
    After doing away with them ( buried @ sea ).....sink their boats.
    Better yet, give their boats away to folks who need boats but cannot afford them. Let it be known that any future Pirates caught their lives will end upon being caught.

    November 20, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Adriana RM Marietta, Ga

    Why did the ship even stop ? Its skiffs these guys are going out into the ocean. They say they have weapons ?? Whatever happen to ramming speed ? The latest act piracy, almost would led me to believe tjhat whoever owns the vessel with 100 millon gallons worth of crude oil was given to the Somalia. And the Suadis are putting up an act.

    November 20, 2008 at 3:57 pm |